Best Family Holidays in Kota Kinabalu

Best Family Holidays in Kota Kinabalu

by Pamela Fletcher


Families looking for a great place to take a holiday together can dive into this list of places to stay, play and enjoy in Kota Kinabalu.


Set against the backdrop of the Crocker Range hills, Utan Paradise Jungle Camp is a rustic back-to-basics jungle camp with outdoor and indoor sleeping, cooking facilities and nature trails to wander through the rainforest. The one-and-a-half hour drive from Kota Kinabalu is punctuated with picturesque views of the mountain range and, at 750m above sea level, the weather at campsite is pleasantly cool throughout most of the day.

The nature trails vary from adventurous one-to-two-hour treks to easy trails to learn about jungle survival, traditional medicines and natural food sources. It’s an outdoor educational experience that makes learning fun and exciting for the young ones.


Borneo Orchard House

in Tamparuli located about 40 minutes from the city is a rental holiday home that can sleep 10 people in bunk beds and a foldout sofa. There’s a fully-equipped kitchen and an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven for great outdoor meals that children will love. Surrounding the house is a matured fruit orchard where durian, pineapple, mango, guava, jackfruit, mangosteen and lots more are grown to provide fresh fruit for the table.


The holiday home offers exclusive privacy for your family to enjoy quality time together, whether it’s walking through the orchard, lazing on the verandah with a book or having a go at a traditional board game which can be found stored in an old wooden chest, one of the many antique furniture pieces that give the place a warm homely ambiance.

Adventure tours such as white water rafting and off-road cycling, as well as a cultural village, are located close by to keep active children and adults entertained during the day.


The Sabah State Museum is the best place to go for an introduction to Sabah’s indigenous cultures and environment. The museum is located just five minutes by car from the city and has a main building featuring permanent collections of indigenous and historical artifacts including ceramics, traditional costumes and accessories, musical instruments, baskets, a replica limestone cave, and a fascinating exhibit on the history of head-hunting in Sabah.

In the surrounding gardens is the Heritage Village where you can wander through examples of traditional houses such as the Kadazan bamboo house, the Rungus and Murut longhouses, the Bajau fisherman house and a Chinese farmhouse. An interpretative label on exhibits in each house, which highlights the traditional lifestyle of the community, is a wonderful way for children to learn and appreciate different cultures and peoples.

Not far from the museum is the Sabah Art Gallery which houses the artwork of local, and some foreign artists, many of whom took inspiration from Sabah’s rich cultural and environmental diversity to showcase their creativity and artistic talents. Art exhibits and music events are regularly held at the gallery to create an avenue for the public to appreciate the beauty of art in various forms.


The Shangri-la resorts in Kota Kinabalu boast an impressive list of children-friendly activities making them the best resort stays for families in the city.

As far as locations go, it’s hard to beat Shangri-la’s Tanjung Aru Resort which is just 15 minutes from the Kota Kinabalu International Airport and city centre. Watch tired frowns turn into smiles with the resort’s special greeting for children that includes a welcome drink and welcome pack consisting of a colouring book, crayons and juice.

While you indulge in some well-deserved holiday pampering of your own by the pool, spa or golf course, your children can get busy at the Cool Zone Kids Club with activities for children between 4 and 12 years old. There’s a computer and television room, a separate section for toddlers and a host of activities conducted by the resort’s recreation team that include arts and crafts, and scavenger hunts.

The resort’s brand new water play area with three colourful theme park quality water slides, a giant tipping bucket, and a Water Wars section for water balloons fights offer endless hours of play. Its latest addition of a 2,000 sq m infinity pool complete with tapered shoreline and bubbly Jacuzzi beds where children can make a splash or dive for tokens adds to the hours of fun in the sun.

Located about 40 minutes north of the city is the Shangri-la’s Rasa Ria Resort with its beautiful stretch of white sand beach and luxurious resort setting.

If spectacular views of Mount Kinabalu and the South China Sea aren’t enough to make your stay at this resort close to perfect, there’s horseback riding, golf at Dalit Bay Golf and Country Club, cruises to the nearby islands on a catamaran, windsurfing and hiking on a trail through the secondary forest of its very own Nature Reserve.

An orang utan rehabilitation programme at the 64-acre Nature Reserve offers the opportunity to see these adorable animals enjoying a meal of bananas on a platform just a couple of minutes’ walk from the reserve’s centre. It’s also a nature interpretation centre where you can introduce your kids to the wonderful world of tropical animals such as deer, pheasants, porcupines, squirrels, the huge-eyed slow loris, birds and bats, as well as endemic flora like the rare Borneo orchids and pitcher plants.

Let your children burn off extra energy running wild along the three-kilometre-long beach in search of shells, sliding down into the huge free-form pool or zipping on a flying fox. Quieter moments can be enjoyed at the special Cool Zone Kids’ club where children are safely entertained by the resort’s caring staff.

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